Senior Jesuits at Colombiere Center in Michigan Serve a Never-Ending Mission

Priests, brothers pray for missions, discern future for Society of Jesus

by Daniel Meloy
Republished with permission from The Michigan Catholic, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Detroit

July 12, 2018 — Since the days of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuits have been going to the corners of the world, proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Father Jim Creighton, SJ; Fr. Robert Scullin, SJ; Fr. Carl Bach, SJ; and Br. Robert Schneider, SJ; along with nurse John Norris, in the gardens at Colombiere Center. (Photo: Dan Meloy/The Michigan Catholic)

It’s a mission every member of the Society of Jesus takes up when they profess their lifelong vows.

At the Colombiere Conference and Retreat Center in Clarkston, Michigan, the Jesuits in residence are no longer active in ministry, but are still ever-present with the mission of the order.

“A Jesuit never retires, but their ministry changes as they age,” Fr. Robert Scullin, SJ, superior of the Colombiere Jesuit Community, explained. “Here we live in community, support one another, reflect on our service, and pray for the continuing success of the Jesuit ministries.”

The Colombiere Center is the home of 60 senior religious. In residence, the Jesuits celebrate Mass twice a day, host retreats, conduct spiritual exercises for people in need of a spiritual director, and are available as substitutes for local clergy.

“We’re not 55 anymore,” Fr. Scullin said. “But we do what we can with the time and energy we have. Many of us have developed relationships over the years, so we spend a lot of time guiding the people we’ve encouraged in the past. We help with reconciliation and Kairos high school retreats.”

Colombiere serves as a retirement home for Jesuit priests in the Midwest Province, mostly from the Chicago and Detroit areas.

Priests and religious live in communion, trading stories about their ministries and discussing what the future holds for the Jesuits in the United States.

“Colombiere is a place to gather to support one another,” said Fr. Casey Bukala, SJ. “It’s a community of love. While I may not be in the fields anymore, we still do what we can. We come here to talk about our experience, sharing our common experiences.”

The primary role of senior priests and religious is to pray for the Catholic Church, the Society of Jesus and all the Jesuit apostolates around the world.

“We have the structure of the Liturgy of the Hours, with morning and evening prayers,” said Fr. Jared Wicks, SJ. “We have a section of intercessory prayers and participating in the Eucharist where we offer the intentions of the Holy Father. I pray regularly for the individuals I taught in Chicago, Rome and Columbus. I pray for the missions of the people I taught and hope my influence on them has been fruitful.”

In addition to praying for the future success of the order, the Jesuits provide spiritual support to the laity and other pastors in the community. Colombiere Center celebrates Mass at 6:30 and 11:15 a.m., and confession is offered daily.

“It amazes me how many pastors and laity come to our Masses,” Fr. Jim Creighton, SJ, said. “We’re glad to be available and open to all who need spiritual assistance.”

The Jesuits trace their American mission to the 17th century, with the likes of St. Isaac Jogues and Fr. Jacques Marquette in Michigan, establishing missions, parishes and schools.

Now in 2018, the senior Jesuits have been asked by the leader of the Midwest Province to look at the priorities of the Jesuits going forward.

“Our superior asked us to look at past priorities and address current issues like how we care for migrants and how we stay involved in the schools in Rome,” Fr. Scullin said. “We brainstormed a whole array of topics.

“A big one is how do we address a culture of irreligion, people who just don’t think religion matters?” Fr. Scullin continued. “How do we, as a Church, minister to people who don’t hate the Gospel, but just are indifferent?”

No matter what the future of the Jesuit ministries looks like, the Jesuits retain an emphasis on getting to know God through learning more about His creation.

“Jesuit contributions to the Church have always included a dimension of learning,” Fr. Wicks said. “Whether we’re teaching, working in a soup kitchen or in rehabilitation for alcoholics, it all has a Jesuit reflection in it. And that’s what we do here when we discern and pray for the future of the Church.”

Whether it’s helping area clergy with celebrating Mass, hosting Alcoholics Anonymous, or quietly praying for the intentions of Pope Francis, the missionary zeal that attracted the men to the Society of Jesus is still there.

“We’re here to pray for the society and the Church, but also the world,” Fr. Scullin said. “That’s a priority for missionaries. We’re not going to Tanzania or Malaysia, but we hold them in our prayers and in the Eucharist.

“Ignatius was willing to be sent anywhere,” Fr. Scullin explained. “And with Ignatian spirituality, we can be sent anywhere, spiritually. So praying for the intentions of the Holy Father, praying the Sacred Heart Devotions to the Eucharist for all the people we’ve encountered over the years — that’s how we’re still missionaries.”

Republished with permission from The Michigan Catholicthe official publication of the Archdiocese of Detroit

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